A Perfect 10 Day Alaska Itinerary
Updated August 2022 | Originally written August 2022
Have you been looking into how to plan a trip to Alaska? Look no further, this perfect 10 day Alaska itinerary is packed with all the information you need to know to plan your very first trip to Alaska.
Alaska is a dream destination for many travelers, a once-in-a-lifetime trip really, so make sure and do it right. This perfect 10 day Alaska itinerary is packed with all the information you’ll need to plan the most amazing Alaskan getaway.
Best Months to Visit Alaska
Largely dependent on what activities you want to partake in, but Alaska is a year-round destination. That said, this 10 day Alaska itinerary is best suited for summer, early fall, and late spring visitors.
For Best Weather: Summer
If it’s the best weather you’re after, then plan to visit in the summer months between June and August. This is when temperatures are warmest in Alaska throughout the year, however, be prepared for rain and clouds because it’s fairly common to have wet weather.
For Less Crowds & Savings: Early Fall & Late Spring
If you don’t mind the air being a bit chillier, in exchange for cheaper prices and smaller crowds, then the shoulder seasons of May and September may be a perfect match for you (these happen to be my favorite times). The other positive to visiting in the early fall is that you will have an increased chance of seeing the aurora.
The only downside to the shoulder season is that some tourist amenities will be closed/not quite yet open yet for the season, so do keep that in mind when planning a shoulder season trip.
Even Fewer Crowds & Winter Sports: Winter
If you don’t mind the cold and want to get in on some winter sports from skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing, ice skating, dog sledding, ice climbing, and so on, winter is a great time to visit. Wintertime also yields northern lights activity and festivals like the Fur Rendezvous, the Iditarod, and the World Ice Arts Championships.
Winter in Alaska is best enjoyed between December and March in my opinion, with March being my favorite winter month because the days are getting a bit longer, the slopes are prime for skiing, and more aurora activity.
Months I Recommend Avoiding: October, November, and April
The months of October, November, and April are pretty blah in Alaska if you ask me. October and November tend to be, well, ugly. It’s already cold, the leaves are gone, and everything is just brown and grey until we get a good blanket of snowfall to cover it all up.
April isn’t the worst month, I’d actually say it’s the least worst of the three, but it’s a bit messy and muddy on the trails for those wanting to get in some hiking as it is full swing of breakup season (what us Alaskans call the soupy springtime mess).
What to Pack for Alaska
Alaska is a destination where it pays off to be prepared as the weather can be a bit erratic. For the typical visitor planning a trip to Alaska between mid-May and mid-September I would recommend the following tips:
- Pack layerable clothing that way you can add more when temps drop and lose layers when you get too warm.
- A decent pair of walking or hiking shoes as many of your activities will take place outside and you more than likely will be spending a good amount of time on your feet.
- Waterproof rain gear as Alaska tends to be a bit wet in the summer months. There’s nothing more miserable than being chilled to the bone because of rain, chilly temps, and a cool breeze permeating your layers.
Costs of Traveling in Alaska
As you’ve probably realized as you’ve begun delving into planning your Alaska trip, Alaska is not a cheap destination. Don’t let that discourage you though, it is possible to travel Alaska on a budget, but know that it’s not going to be a cheap vacation.
Traveling in Alaska has become more expensive than it was in the past due to fuel hikes causing flights and gas prices to increase, rising visitor number that has caused the price of accommodations to go up, and decreased vehicle supply causing rental car prices to skyrocket.
So as of 2022, I would estimate the average daily costs per person traveling in Alaska to be in the $200-350 range when factoring in hotels, rental cars, food, and some activities.
Should I Rent a Car or Travel by Train in Alaska?
If you want my personal opinion, having your own transport is the best for travelers in Alaska but that’s not to say that there aren’t perks to train travel. If you want the utmost flexibility and freedom then renting a car would be the best decision for you. If you want to relax and watch the scenery pass on by and aren’t too fussed about getting off of the beaten path then opting to do this 10 day Alaska itinerary by train is a good option.
Do note that this Alaska itinerary is mostly designed with independent travelers with their own vehicle in mind but know that you can easily make this itinerary possible if using the train. I have added amendments on certain days (such as days 5 and 6) for train vs. car travelers, giving options for both.
10 Day Alaska Itinerary Day 1: Anchorage
The majority of flights to Anchorage land in the late night and wee hours of the morning (10 pm to 3 am), so plan to head straight to your accommodation (after grabbing your rental car if you plan to self-drive) and hit the hay.
Give yourself a chance to rest and sleep in on this first day of your 10 day Alaska itinerary. Once you’re rested, get up and grab brunch at one of Anchorage’s best restaurants. Great brunch spots to consider are South Restaurant, Humpy’s, Snowcity Cafe, or Kava’s Pancake House.
In the afternoon, I would recommend getting outdoors for the first day of your Alaska itinerary if the weather is decent. Things to consider doing are renting bicycles and hitting the Coastal Trail from downtown Anchorage (you could join a guided coastal trail bike tour too!), or if you want to get into the mountains, consider hiking the trail up Flattop for epic views of Anchorage (or check out this list of awesome Anchorage day hikes!). If you don’t have a rental car but want to take on Flattop, I would recommend grabbing the Flattop Shuttle to get there and back.
Not quite as active or are still feeling a bit drained from your travel day yesterday? Something to consider is the Anchorage Trolley Tour which will give you a nice intro to the city in just one hour.
Once you’ve wrapped up the trolley tour, take a stroll around downtown Anchorage to check out the shops and sights. Downtown Anchorage is easily walkable and is simple to get around.
If the weather is bad a good thing to do this first day is to check out the Anchorage Museum. The museum was renovated in 2017 and features some interesting exhibits showcasing Alaskan native culture, Alaskan artwork, and the Imaginarium which is perfect for kids.
In the evening, plan to grab dinner in downtown Anchorage. Good restaurants to check out are Crow’s Nest, Simon & Seaforts, Ginger, or Marx Brother’s Cafe if looking for something upper-scale. If looking for something a bit more budget-friendly, you may want to consider Fletcher’s or 49th State Brewery.
If you don’t mind making the trek out to midtown, a local favorite is Moose’s Tooth Pizzeria.
Where to Stay in Anchorage
If you’re following this itinerary to the T, You’ll want to book nights 0, 1, and 9 in Anchorage. The following are some different hotel options to consider in Anchorage:
10 Day Alaska Itinerary Day 2: Travel to Denali
On the second day of your 10 day Alaska itinerary head into the Interior region of the state to visit one of Alaska’s most prized gems- Denali National Park and Preserve.
There are three main ways to reach Denali- by rental car, by train, or by the Park Connection bus. Here are the expected travel times for each:
- Rental car: 4 hours not including scenic stops if driving yourself.
- Train: The Alaska Railroad offers departures from Anchorage to Denali. Plan for 7 hours and 30 minutes to reach the park.
- Bus: The Park Connection bus takes about 5 hours 30 minutes to reach Denali from Anchorage.
The pros of renting a car are that you have maximum flexibility and can make stops anywhere you want on the way to Denali, whereas going by train travelers have the benefit of being able to watch the scenery roll by without a care.
You’ll likely reach Denali sometime in the afternoon no matter how you opt to travel there. Take the afternoon to relax around the little tourist town along the Nenana Canyon near the park. If you’re feeling a bit more active and have your own wheels, you may want to start in on some of the activities around Denali or even stretch your legs by getting in a quick hike near the park entrance.
Where to Stay in Denali
It’s worth noting that there are no hotels in Denali National Park, so if you are planning to sleep in the park you will need to camp. Most visitors will stay in the tourist town of Denali Park just outside the national park. Other options include staying in nearby Cantwell or Healy which are both short(ish) trips from the park entrance.
You will want to book nights 2, 3, and 4 of your Alaska itinerary here in Denali (unless you opt to spend night 4 down in Talkeetna). Here are some good options for where to sleep in or around Denali:
- Camping (book campsites within the park in advance)
- McKinley Creekside Cabins
- Denali Cabins
- Grande Denali Lodge
Note that there is a $15 per person entrance fee to Denali National Park that is good for 7 consecutive days.
10 Day Alaska Itinerary Day 3: Denali National Park
Today’s the day to explore Denali National Park. Do note that you cannot drive private vehicles into the park beyond Savage River (around mile 15 of the park road), so the best way to explore the park is to use one of the park buses. One thing to note for 2022 is that the Denali Park Road is closed beyond mile 42 due to a landslide.
I would recommend taking one of the narrated bus tours to get the most out of your Denali National Park experience, with the Tundra Wilderness Tour being the best option of them all. Most of these tours will start in the morning and return to the visitor center in the afternoon.
These bus tours are great for learning about the history of the park as well as spotting some of Denali’s famed wildlife including moose, caribou, bears, Dall sheep, and more.
After the bus tour ends, you can either plan to relax and stroll around the Denali Park area or get in an excursion. Grab dinner at a restaurant listed from day 2 and get a good night’s rest back at your hotel (or tent).
10 Day Alaska Itinerary Day 4: Denali National Park
For the fourth day of your 10 day Alaska itinerary, plan for more adventures around Denali. Today would be a great day to get in an adventurous excursion in or around the park.
If a flightseeing trip is out of the budget for you, check out white water rafting Nenana River or some more hikes around Denali.
If you do choose to move down to Talkeetna, consider the following accommodation options:
10 Day Alaska Itinerary Day 5: Travel to Girdwood
Today is another long travel day taking you from Denali and then to the south of Anchorage to the seaside ski town of Girdwood. The best way to do this is to have your own vehicle, but you could opt to take the train back down to Anchorage and either rent a car and continue from there, or plan to spend the night tonight in Anchorage, forgoing Girdwood and go straight to Seward by train on day 6.
For those that are self-driving, plan for a roughly 5 hour drive today, not including any scenic stops. I would recommend leaving in the morning and budgeting for a stop in Anchorage along the way to grab lunch.
After leaving Anchorage the drive becomes quite beautiful along the Turnagain Arm with several scenic pull-offs along the way. These include Beluga Point and Bird Creek among many others.
Once to Girdwood, check out some of the little town’s best things to do whether it be a little stroll around town, or a hike up Mount Alyeska’s Northface for sweeping views over Cook Inlet and the town of Girdwood below, or a walk along the Winner Creek Trail.
Where to Stay in Girdwood
10 Day Alaska Itinerary Day 6: Travel to Seward
If you stayed in Girdwood last night, the drive from Girdwood to Seward should take about 1 hour 30 minutes today, not including any stops. Some scenic stops to consider along the way are:
- Portage and Byron Glaciers
- The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
- Turnagain Pass
- Kenai Lake
- Exit Glacier
If you will be taking the train from Anchorage the train will depart at 6:45 am and arrive in Seward at 11:45 am giving you the afternoon to explore around Seward.
I would recommend those driving make the stop just before Seward to go see Exit Glacier which sits within Kenai Fjords National Park. There is a short trail through the woods that leads from the visitor center that will bring you up for close views of Exit Glacier. There is also the longer Exit Glacier Trail that will bring you up to a great viewpoint.
For those that get up and leave Girdwood quite early, there is the possibility of taking the trail up to Harding Icefield. Do note that the trail is about 8 miles out and back.
Where to Stay in Seward
10 Day Alaska Itinerary Day 7: Seward
For the 7th day of this 10 day Alaska itinerary make time to get out on the water from Seward and explore Resurrection Bay. I’ve gotten to spend a decent amount of time exploring around Seward and Resurrection Bay and can honestly say the best ways of doing this for first-timers is to go out on a wildlife and glacier tour with Major Marine’s Tours.
These tours will take you to get to know the bay and Kenai Fjords National Park up close and personal. There are different options ranging from half to full-day trips.
If you want to do something a little more private for exploring Resurrection Bay, consider hiring Louis from Seward Water Taxi to take you out to explore the bay (he charges $200 an hour for this, so if you have a large group this is a great deal). We did this one year for a friend’s bachelorette party and had probably the most epic day in Seward I’ve ever had.
For those that opt to take only a half-day wildlife and glacier tour, I would recommend either taking the remainder of the day to explore Lowell Point or visit the Seward Sealife Center.
Back in Seward for the evening try out a different restaurant for dinner before getting rested up for the next day of the Alaska itinerary.
10 Day Alaska Itinerary Day 8: Seward
On your second day in Seward, take this time to explore some of Seward’s other highlights like hiking Mount Marathon, going sea kayaking on Resurrection Bay, getting away from the crowds and taking a water taxi out to Fox Island, Thumb Cove, Caine’s Head, Bear Glacier (or beyond), or book a fishing charter.
Looking to get away from it all?
Alternatively, on your first afternoon in Seward (Day 6) schedule a water taxi to take you out to Kayaker’s Cove and spend nights 6, 7, and 8 unplugged and exploring the beautiful nature that makes that little cove so special. A good friend of mine’s Mom caretakes the property from time to time and I’ve gotten to spend some lovely weekends out there and thoroughly recommend it for the more adventurous types. Check out the Kayaker’s Cove hostel and cabins website for more info.
10 Day Alaska Itinerary Day 9: Drive to Anchorage
Your Alaskan trip of a lifetime is winding down at this point, so it’s time to make the journey back to Anchorage. This is a great day to take your time (if you’ve self-drove) and explore anything along Turnagain Arm that you may have skipped on the way down on day Day 6 of the Alaska itinerary.
If you find you don’t have a lot of stops to make on your way back to Anchorage, you may want to consider going through the tunnel to Whittier and spending part of the afternoon there before continuing back to Anchorage.
Those that are taking the train, it doesn’t depart until 6 pm, so you can use today as a bonus day of playing around in Seward before you sit back and relax as you watch the Alaskan sceneries go by as you head back to Anchorage. The train arrives in Anchorage at 10:15 pm.
10 Day Alaska Itinerary Day 10: Anchorage
This is your final day in Alaska! Take today to grab any souvenirs from one of the shops in downtown Anchorage, get in a last day hike, or eat your way across town.
You’ll likely depart this evening back home, but if not book an extra night in your hotel and rest up before your departure tomorrow.